Some thoughts and notes in the aftermath of the Dolphins’ draft:
▪ There was a lot to like about the Dolphins' draft, including the fact they snagged players skilled in underneath pass coverage (Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jerome Baker) and the doubling-down at tight end.
But while the Dolphins had too many needs to fill all of them, there are three things that concern me coming out of the draft:
1. Run defense. Miami was barely average against the run last season with Ndamukong Suh, who was rated by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s second-best run-stopping defensive tackle in 2017. So how they are possibly going to stop the run consistently when they haven't replaced Suh and drafted a linebacker (Baker) whose run-stopping isn’t considered a strength?
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PFF rated Jordan Phillips 119th against the run among all defensive tackles last season, Davon Godchaux 64th and Vincent Taylor 53rd. The Dolphins assuredly would argue with those numbers and feel comfortable with Phillips and Godchaux starting.
Perhaps that group, supplemented by a summer free agent and end/tackle William Hayes – will prove sturdy enough in the interior against the run. Perhaps Raekwon McMillan, coming off a serious knee injury, will be a run-stuffer in his first year as the starting middle linebacker. Perhaps defensive end Robert Quinn will do terrific work setting the edge.
But it’s difficult not be somewhat skeptical about any of this.
2. The Dolphins keep having to fix problems they thought had been addressed. If T.J. McDonald had been as good as Miami thought, the Dolphins wouldn’t have needed to invest a first-rounder in Minkah Fitzpatrick and wouldn’t be talking about maybe moving McDonald to linebacker. If Julius Thomas had been what they thought he would be, they wouldn’t have needed to draft two tight ends. If Lawrence Timmons had been what they thought he would be, linebacker still wouldn’t be a concern.
At least there was no cap hit for releasing Thomas and a minimal cap hit for cutting Timmons, thanks to a contract restructuring after he went AWOL for last year’s opener.
3. Quarterback. If the Dolphins didn’t have a conviction about any of the quarterbacks beyond the top four, then you can’t blame them for not drafting one.
The bigger issue is whether they picked the correct veteran backups in Brock Osweiler and David Fales.
Adam Gase — who did good work with Tim Tebow and Ryan Tannehbill — clearly believes he can elevate players who played for him before. But he couldn’t with Jay Cutler last season, and it’s questionable if he can do it with Osweiler, who has 20 touchdowns and 21 interceptions the past two seasons for Houston and Denver and actually had a lower passer rating last season than Matt Moore (72.5, compared with Moore’s 75.6). Moore remains unsigned; the Dolphins wanted someone more durable than Moore.
If Tannehill is injured again in preseason, does anybody beyond Gase and perhaps the front office believe the Osweiler/Fales combo could lead this team to more than five wins, if that?
While many teams would be doomed needing to play a backup quarterback for an extended stretch, that's not always the case. (See Philadelphia and Minnesota last year.)
▪ The question isn’t whether the Dolphins should have drafted UM receiver Braxton Berrios (there’s simply no space for him on the roster), but whether they should instead have bypassed Danny Amendola (two years, $12 million) and instead used that money and cap space on a linebacker, perhaps Zach Brown (three years, $21 million) or Tahir Whitehead (three years, $18 million).
Without Amendola, they would have been OK with Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Leonte Carroo and a cheap veteran free agent and/or a draft pick (such as Berrios).
Not sure they’re going to be OK at linebacker.
▪ We hear the Dolphins were disappointed when the Ravens selected cornerback Anthony Averett 118th overall, before Miami picked tight end Durham Smythe 123rd. The Dolphins really like Averett, and as they told Charley Casserly, they considered cornerback a need.
They also liked BYU linebacker Fred Warner, who went to the 49ers three spots before Miami picked Baker in the third round.
▪ I give Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi the benefit of any doubt in drafting New Mexico’s Jason Sanders over UF’s more accurate Eddy Pineiro because Rizzi is good at his job and has a strong track record.
But keep this in mind on Sanders: He was 4 for 5 on field goals of 50 yards or more in his career, but three of those four successful ones came in higher elevations: two in Albuquerque and one in Fort Collins, Colorado. (The other was in lower-elevation Tulsa.)
So though he has a strong leg, it remains to be seen if his kicks will travel as far playing home games at sea level.
FAU’s Greg Joseph will challenge Sanders all summer.
▪ This was the first draft in their 53-year history that the Dolphins didn’t draft an offensive lineman, and maybe that’s a good thing, considering the Dolphins haven’t drafted a long-term starter in the fourth through seventh rounds this century.
▪ This marks the fifth time in team history and first since 1988 that Miami has picked two tight ends in the same draft.
▪ The Dolphins have just $2.8 million in cap space, according to the NFL players union, but will add $17 million in space on June 1 because of the release of Ndamukong Suh. That money will be used to sign the draft class, fill positions of need (perhaps defensive tackle) and fill out a practice squad, with some money being left to fill needs that arise during the season or carry over to next spring.